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A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly is probably one of my favorite Phillip K. Dick novels.  His works have been converted in to numerous Films and TV shows.  The problem with his work is that it’s actually quite hard to convert his writing in to other formats.  There’s been much failure in doing so.  Next, Paycheck, and unfortunately A Scanner Darkly.

Richard Linklater, who directed the film, is the greatest American film director who doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  However, even he has trouble converting the source material.  A Scanner Darkly is a frenetic acid trip that plays well on paper, but not so well on the screen.  It is the story of Bob Arctor who lives with a number of drug addled degenerates who are addicted to a futuristic drug, Substance D, or Slow Death.  Arctor lives a double life as a secret agent, Fred, who wears a scramble suit to make him un-identified. It alters his appearance.  Fred is looking in to the activities of Bob Arctor, himself, and the degenerates who live in his house, played by Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson.

Arctor tries to hide his dual life through the aid of the scramble suit.  His addiction to Substance D however guides his motives and friendship.  His love for Donna, his drug dealer, also guides his actions.  He’s conflicted between his role as agent, and drug addict.

A Scanner Darkly plays like a Hunter S. Thompson novel.  It works on paper but not so much on the screen.  It’s trippy. It’s weird.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it’s a film that fails at the box office, and tries too hard to become a cult film.  The way the film is shot also adds to this bizarre world.  Linklater definitely gets some props for attempting to create a new animated, dreamy world.  It’s a world of paranoia and addiction, but not a lot of Substance.

A Scanner Darkly, very strangely, mimics Phillip K. Dick’s personal life.  He lived in addiction for most of his life, and he stated that he lived with a number of transient drug addicts who would stay with him in his home.  It’s a fantastic novel, but not so much as a film.

Grade: C+